Voter Registration Guide
How to Register to Vote in California
To protect your voting rights in California, you must first register to vote. Voters must be aware of their rights and obligations and be sufficiently knowledgeable and informed about the process of registration.
Eligibility to Register As a Voter in California
The following requirements are needed when registering to vote in California:
- Should be a citizen of the United States and a Californian
- On Election Day, you should be eighteen years old
- Not serving a federal or state jail sentence for a felony conviction (People who have been convicted of a crime in California have their voting privileges taken away. Residents' voting rights are immediately restored once they have completed their state or federal jail sentence for a felony conviction)
- Have not been deemed mentally unable to participate in an election by a judge
Voter Registration by Mail
When registering by mail, you are required to use California's voter registration form, and you can also request a form at your local library, or U.S. Post Office. Carefully read the instructions and properly input the required details in the form. Send the completed form to the elections authority in your county.
Voter Registration in Person
When registering to vote in person, reach out to your local election office to know when and where to register to vote. When you fail to register to vote after the deadline or update your voter registration information, you can use conditional voter registration as a safety net. They can also use the conditional voter registration process from the day after the deadline until Election Day. Eligible persons should visit their polling station or voting center to register and vote conditionally. These ballots will be processed when the elections office has finished the registration verification procedure.
Online Voter Registration
California allows voters to register to vote online. To utilize California's online voter registration system, you'll require an identity card number or the last four digits of your social security number. Registering by mail can be an option when you don't want to provide authorization to use your digital signature.
Online 15 days before Election Day
By Mail Must be postmarked 15 days before Election Day
In-Person Available up to and including on Election Day
Point your camera here to access Online Voter Registration
Basics for Completing Voter Registration Cards (VRCs)
Item 1: Voter declaration. The applicant must mark “yes” or “no” to the question of whether or not they are a United States citizen and if they will be 18 years old on or before Election Day. To pre-register to vote in California, the applicant must mark the box indicating that they are 16 or 17 years old and otherwise meet the eligibility requirements to vote.
Item 2: First name, middle name (or initial), last name, suffix (optional), and title (optional).
- Should match CA driver license (CDL)/CA identification card (ID Card).
Item 3: Date of birth and CA driver license/ID card number or last four of Social Security Number.
- Date of birth and U.S. state or foreign country (not county) of birth.
- If the applicant has been issued a CA driver license or an identification card, they MUST list the number.
- If the applicant does not have either, they MUST list the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number.
- If the applicant does not have any of the above, they can still register to vote. Just leave the field blank.
Item 4: Home address, city, zip code, and county name. This should be their “Residential” address.
- Residence: Place in which the applicant’s habitation is fixed and where the intention is to stay. For voting purposes, a person can have only ONE residence.
- P.O. Boxes & business addresses are NOT valid here.
- If the applicant does not have a street address, they should enter an exact description of where they live.
- Cross streets, route, box, bridges, or other landmarks can be used.
- Mostly used for applicants living in rural areas with non-specific street addresses. Also used for applicants who are homeless.
Item 5: Mailing address. The applicant must complete this section if they want to receive election mail at an
address other than their residence. This can be a P.O. Box or business address.
Item 6: The applicant should complete this section if they were previously registered and changed their address, surname, or political party preference. If the applicant cannot recall their previous address, it can be left blank.
Item 7: Effective January 1, 2022, every active, registered voter in California will receive a vote-by-mail ballot; if a voter prefers to cast their ballot in person, they may still do so at a polling location.
Item 8: Political party preference. Mark box to choose any of the political parties listed. If the applicant does not want to choose a political party preference, mark the “No Party/None” box.
- There can be only ONE mark in Item 8 with NO CORRECTIONS or ALTERATIONS. A new VRC must be filled out if an error is made.
Item 9: Optional Information
- E-mail address and phone number. These are optional but recommended.
- To receive state materials in another language, mark the language preference box. If no box is checked, voter materials will be provided in English.
Item 10: This item MUST contain the signature/mark/signature stamp of the applicant. Please also include the date of
Blue Box: Complete this box if you filled out (put pen to paper) some or all of the VRC on behalf of the applicant. If you only answered questions or checked if the VRC was complete, do not complete the box.
Voter Registration – Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible to register to vote?
- Anyone can register to vote if they are:
- A United States citizen and a resident of California,
18 years old or older on Election Day (or 16 or 17 years old for pre-registration),
- Not currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony,
- Not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.
Must a person provide identification when registering to vote?
- Yes. When registering or re-registering to vote, the voter must provide a California driver license or state ID number, if they have one, in the fields provided on the affidavit of registration.
- If the voter does not have a California driver license or state ID number, they must provide the last four numbers of their Social Security number in the field provided.
- If the voter does not have a California driver license, a state ID card or a Social Security number, the voter can still register. The county elections official will assign a unique identification number to the voter.
- Item 6 of the affidavit of registration must be completed if the voter has been previously registered to vote.
When is the last day to register to vote for an election?
A person must submit a completed and signed affidavit of registration to their county elections office no less than 15 days before an election to be eligible to vote in that election. If the deadline has passed, they have the opportunity to “conditionally” register to vote and vote provisionally. (Elec. Code, § 2170.) Information about Conditional Voter Registration, also known as “Same Day” voter registration, can be found at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/same-day-reg/.
Can inmates register and vote?
A person loses the right to register and vote while they are serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony. Once they are out of state or federal prison (or county jail or other correctional facility for serving a state prison sentence), the person’s ability to vote (if they were previously registered) or to register and vote is restored. For more information on the rights of people who have been incarcerated, please see the Secretary of State’s Voting Rights: Persons with a Criminal History.
When must a voter re-register to vote?
A voter should re-register to vote:
- Whenever there is a change in residence address. However, if a voter moved into a temporary residence that they do not intend to be their permanent residence, they can continue to use their prior residence where they were previously registered to vote as the address for the purpose of voting.
A voter must re-register to vote:
- To change their political party preference.
- To change their surname.
Upon re-registration, Item 6 of the affidavit of registration must be completed with the voter’s previous registration information. However, after the close of registration, instead of re-registering, voters can submit a written request to their county elections official to change their address or disclose or change their political party preference. (Elec. Code, §§ 2119.5, 2152.)
If a voter just moved within their county, do they need to re-register to vote?
If a voter moved to a new address within the same county, they can either re-register
to vote or they can update their registration with a written notice to their county
If a voter did not vote in the last election do they need to re-register?
No. In general, a voter is registered for as long as the voter lives at the same address. However, if a voter has not voted in the last several elections, they may be sent a request to confirm that they have not moved.
If a person does not vote in a primary election, will they be able to vote in the following general election?
If a voter is away at school, what address (college or parents’) can they use?
A voter may use whichever address they consider to be their domicile, but not both.
If a person is on parole, probation, mandatory supervision, or post-release community supervision can they register to vote?
If a wife’s husband is out of town but he needs to register, may the wife register him?
No. He must sign the affidavit of registration himself, under penalty of perjury. He can complete the affidavit and mail it from wherever he is. He may also register online at the Secretary of State’s website.
If a voter registers to vote can the voter be called for jury duty?
Jury duty lists are compiled from a variety of sources, including the Department of Motor Vehicles records and the voter registration file.